Credit: Ris Twigg | Assistant Photo Editor

After almost two years of construction, Cannon Drive is officially open to traffic once again.

Cannon Drive —which runs from Woody Hayes Drive to King Avenue near Ohio Stadium and the Wexner Medical Center — closed in fall 2017 as part of a two-phase project to protect the university and the medical center from flooding. As of June 21, the roadway is open, but work on the first phase will continue through the end of the year, Dan Hedman, a university spokesman said in an email.

Hedman said that the project was on schedule and will continue with landscaping, trees, lighting, a nearby greenspace and traffic signal installation.

“Phase I of Cannon Drive straightened and elevated the roadway between King Avenue and John Herrick Drive. The $51.9 million project created a certified flood barrier that protects the university and its medical center from a possible 100-year flood event,” Hedman said in an email. “It also opened up 12-acres of developable land to allow for future expansion in alignment with Framework 2.0, the university’s long-term planning vision.”

Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer at the Wexner Medical Center, said that the Cannon Drive project is an investment in the growth of that area of campus, as the construction opened up land for a new parking garage and eventually a new hospital.

The opening of a north-to-south corridor aside from High Street, Neil Avenue or Olentangy River Road will also improve traffic flow for patients, families, emergency medical services, and faculty and staff, Thomas said.

“In the short term, though, the ability for our patients to get to all of our garages, the ability of our staff to get on and off campus, I mean, it’s just a plus all around,” Thomas said.

Although the opening of the roadway has restored normal traffic flow, the closure of Cannon Drive over the last two years also resulted in the closure of the Polo and Dodd parking lots, which displaced medical center employees’ parking to West Campus lots. Hedman said that West Campus lots, as well as central campus lots or garages, continue to be an option for employees.

Thomas said that although the project caused a lot of parking to be moved to satellite locations, other hospitals operate on a similar parking system, including Riverside Hospital.

“It was a luxury that we had for many, many, many years and people got very used to that,” Thomas said. “Unfortunately, as part of our growth, it’s not going to be sustainable to have it all on central campus.”

Phase two of the project, which is still in the design phase, will straighten and elevate Cannon Drive from John Herrick Drive to Woody Hayes Drive in an effort to create a 500-year flood barrier, Hedman said.

The second phase of the project has already received some funding by the Board of Trustees, Hedman said.

“To date, Ohio State’s Board of Trustees has approved a total of $8.2 million for Phase II professional services, including $1.6 million for Ohio State Energy Partners scope,” he said.